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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 2, 1998

Visit of Endeavour to Queen Charlotte Sound 1996

page 16

Visit of Endeavour to Queen Charlotte Sound 1996

On 15 January 1770 the Endeavour, commanded by Lieutenant James Cook RN, entered the head of Totara-nui, which he was to name Queen Charlotte Sound in honour of the wife of King George III, and anchored in Mere-toto, the bay he named Ship Cove, a snug and protected haven with a gently shelving beach, clear stream and bush-clad hills. It was seen to be an ideal place in which to rest the crew, effect repairs to the ship and replenish supplies of wood, water and the fresh grasses and plants used in the diet to combat scurvy.

After encounters of varying kind with the Rangitaane tribes-people, the latest occupiers of the neighbouring lands, Cook sailed out of the Sound on 6 February 1770 and passed through Raukawa-moana, the strait which now bears his name. He completed his circumnavigation of the North Island, recorded as Ae Helno Mouwe on his 1769–70 chart, before making a circuit of the southern isles, his Touwypoenammu.

On hearing the announcement that a sailing replica of HM Bark Endeavour was to visit Ship Cove on 12 February 1996, during an attempt to follow the route sailed by James Cook on his 1769–70 circumnavigation of New Zealand, my appetite was whetted to become immersed in what was to be an experience of my lifetime. The dignitaries of Picton prevailed on the tour organisers to have the eighteenth century replica bark visit the port so that people living in the top of the South Island could see Endeavour at close quarters and have me chance to go on board and inspect the ship.

When I found that Endeavour was to berth in Picton for inspection visits on 13 and 14 February 1996, I applied to the Picton Lions Club for a programme of the events associated with the visit. They sent application forms to be tour guides on Endeavour, and my wife Jill Blechynden and I applied for duty on the 900 hr-1400 hr (9.00 am-2.00 pm) watch on Tuesday 13 February, as I felt it would be a grand way to celebrate my 69th birthday.

At 7 pm on Sunday 11 February we were in the Perano Conference Room of me Ancient Mariner Motor Lodge with about 70 other aspiring and perspiring fellow guides.

We had been called together by John Evans, who was coordinating the selection process. For over two hours Alistair Shaw, chief guide trainer, spoke to us on the concept behind the HM Bark Endeavour Foundation, the financing of the project, the building of the eighteenth century sailing replica in the Bond Yard in Fremantle, West Australia, and the duties of guides during the Picton visit

The weather for that day had been fine, calm and sunny and I was disappointed to wake to a dull, breezy morning on Monday 12 February. At 9 am Jill and I and three other couples were welcomed aboard the charter yacht Te Anau by yacht master John Evans and his page 17best-boy and cook, wife Phillipa. We had hoped to rendezvous with Endeavour in Ship Cove at midday, but the strong norwester sweeping down the Sound put paid to that scheme. We had an encounter with a pod of about 50 dolphins en route which entertained us with a display of their aquatic skills, and a group of three or four of them rode the Te Arau's bow wave from time to time.

We motored head on into rising seas, with bow spray sweeping the full length of Te Anau. While crossing the entrance to Endeavour Inlet we made out the rigging and the three masts of Endeavour as it ran on an eastward course from Ship Cove and was swallowed up in the gloom off Motuara Island. The ship then took a more southerly course down Queen Charlotte Sound for Picton. We came abreast of Endeavour port to port off Resolution Bay at 11.30 am, among the accompanying flotilla of an estimated 180 small boats. We went about on a port tack and fell in line a hundred metres astern of the bark, which was sailing under very little canvas at a steady 3.3 knots. Our way was much more comfortable with a following sea but, to stay on station and be of no threat to other boats, Te Anau stayed under power.

In the calmer waters north of Tory Channel we suddenly realised that me Aratika had come into Queen Charlotte Sound via me northern entrance to join the flotilla, with every rail crowded with passengers. She slowed her speed to join the queue making for Picton and I was unfortunately below changing a film when she accelerated to pass the flotilla and was unable to get a comparative shot of me two vessels. Phillipa served us a fine lunch at 12.45 pm. The leisurely progress down the Sound gave us plenty of time to admire Endeavour and for me to bewail me closeness of small power boats which prevented me from taking shots of an eighteenth century ship alone on Totara-nui.

The adverse weather conditions in the outer Sound had not allowed us to see the waka, with its crew of 60 paddle wielding warriors, and local Maori representatives and tribal dignitaries welcome HM Bark Endeavour to their home waters. We finally sighted the waka on the edge of the flotilla two to three hundred metres to starboard and slightly astern, under power, with only 8–10 crew in wet-weather gear aboard. It was misty to the south over Picton and at about 3.00 pm the wind changed to the south and the rain set in. To avoid drenching I retired below deck and, when I returned an hour later, I found that Te Anau had taken a detour behind Allport Island and was making for her berth in Picton.

We left the yacht and drove to my daughter-in-law's home in Whatamongo Bay, where we enjoyed a fine birthday dinner before returning to Picton. The Endeavour was tied up at the Waitohi Wharf, beyond the Inter-Islander link span. At 6.45 pm the guides met at the Edwin Fox centre, before going on board for an orientation visit. We then went to the Ancient Mariner conference room for the issuing of uniforms and a final briefing. Tuesday 13 February 1996 dawned fine calm and clear. Jill and I were aboard by 8.45 am and immediately into our watch, as Alistair Shaw had decided to begin the tours early because of the build up of the queue.

My first station was at the foot of the companion way, beside me galley. About every hour I moved one station aft, finishing in the Great Cabin. Jill had had an early stint in the ticket page 18selling booth, before taking school parties on abbreviated tours. We could have had a quarter hour break below decks for a cuppa, but I opted to spend it in the fresh air on the poop deck.

I was sorry to leave the 'tween decks when my watch was relieved at 2 pm. By the afternoon the numbers in the queue had grown so much that parties were taking two and a half to three hours to reach the ship. With little shelter on the wharf and no breeze the waiting was hot and trying for most people. To clear the ship by 7 pm the queue had to be closed at 3.15 pm. Such was the response and enthusiasm of people to visit Endeavour that the projected 8 pm sailing on Wednesday was changed to 7 am on Thursday and visiting hours on Wednesday were extended to 9 pm.

On the morning of Wednesday 14 February we arrived at the Waitohi Wharf at 10 am to offer our services as relief guides. The large tourist liner Marco Polo was being welcomed by a dixieland jazz band on the other side of the wharf. The size and general appearance of the two ships side by side made a telling contrast. By 11 am the sun had dispersed all cloud and a pleasant breeze tempered the heat for the rest of the day. Jill took a school party on board at 11.30 am and was placed on relief at the top of the companion way on the poopdeck until relieved from duty at the end of the morning watch at 2 pm. The queue was not as long as on the previous day, with people having a wait of up to an hour and a half.

At the beginning of the afternoon watch I was detailed to take a school party aboard. The ensign flying at the stern was at half mast to mark the anniversary of Captain Cook's death in Hawaii in 1769 and the crew wore a black arm band for the day. Back on quayside I was given a roaming brief to speak to people in the queue, giving information that might not be covered on board. From 3 pm I had a final hour welcoming visitors at the foot of the steps down from the gang-plank. At 4 pm we found my daughter-in-law and her two daughters in the queue, so I joined them and acted as their personal guide on the ship. It was a fitting way to finish my duty aboard HM bark Endeavour.